We, the BRIDGE Board, stand in unequivocal support of Black Lives Matter and the uprisings around the world against police brutality. We are inspired by the multi-year, intergenerational Black organizing of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and we stand in solidarity with Black people and communities in demanding full accountability, safety, health and justice everywhere.
George Floyd’s murder is not an isolated incident--it is the result of hundreds of years of state-sanctioned violence and the normalization of white supremacy. We lift up not only the life and humanity of George Floyd but Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many Black and Indigenous people who have been taken by police. We also want to honor the many Black Trans and Gender Non-conforming people who have been harmed and killed, whose names do not make national news. Saying their names is not enough. We need to understand the daily interactions, systems, and policies that continue the war on Black people.
In the case of George Floyd, and so many others, racism followed him from the moment he left his home. Anti-Black bias harassed him at the counter accusing him of counterfeit cash. White supremacy called a racist officer to the scene to ultimately steal his life from him and his family. These instances of anti-Black violence are an experience that African Americans know all too well, in Berkshire County and across the country.
Before leaving the house, African Americans ask themselves, will I come back home today? Siblings wonder about their brothers and sisters and parents ask these questions about their children. African Americans routinely ask, am I wearing the “right” clothes this morning, or will my hoodie get me killed?
White folks have created and maintained this reality of oppression, violence and exploitation for centuries. For the future of our communities, our country--our planet--this cycle must end.
As an anti-racist organization, BRIDGE is committed to lifting up the voices, stories, and work of Black and brown people locally and nationally. BRIDGE lives its core values by employing people of color and paying a living wage. We reflect our minority and women-run status through our staff and board makeup. Our programs operate from the acknowledgement and affirmation that Black and brown communities are sites of wisdom, power, resilience and joy. We offer community spaces, resources, advocacy, training, coaching, and most recently (in the context of COVID-19) sustainable food access and supplies deliveries to our constituents, 90% of whom are Black and brown families. BRIDGE is also committed to catalyzing courageously authentic conversations about our behaviors, systems, and history, and how we must change. Our BRIDGE CEO and founder, Gwendolyn VanSant, has participated in many interviews, conversations, and dialogues in response to the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings in the last few weeks. We want to highlight an interview from June 10th, with Josh Landes on WAMC on Implementing Structural Change.
As a board, we are a multiracial, multigenerational group of individuals holding different identities. Regardless of our identity, we recognize that as representatives of BRIDGE, we as board members are called to lean into our training, values, and commitments, and to stand loudly and proudly as anti-racist individuals in our Berkshire community, and in all the spaces we occupy and relationships we hold. We acknowledge that we have not always done so, and that we have often relied on Gwendolyn’s leadership, vision, and labor as a cover for our silence. For those of us who are white, it is ongoing and daily practice to disrupt white supremacy in ourselves and other white people and institutions. Socialized in a white supremacist society, we must work to constantly disrupt anti-Blackness in ourselves, first.
We need to be asking ourselves and each other, more frequently and explicitly: What does it actually look like to lift up and follow Black women’s leadership? How do we show up in ways that are honest and authentic in the face of harm that we’ve caused or been complicit in? How do we practice accountability to BRIDGE staff, constituents, and community members of color? How have we failed to show up, and what is the impact?
As a board, we commit ourselves to the following actions to disrupt and dismantle white supremacy culture within BRIDGE, so that we can authentically support this organization in leading and catalyzing powerful and needed change in our community:
We acknowledge that these steps are long overdue. We wish to name and honor that the organizing and leadership of Black Lives Matter in response to the murders of George Floyd and so many others has pushed us to go deeper and take a hard look at how we think, communicate, behave, and show up in the world in support of Black Liberation.
Ari Cameron, (Co-chair), AJ Enchill, Jr. (Co-chair), Rev. Sloan Letman IV (Vice Chair),
Steve Glick (Treasurer), Veronica Fenton (Secretary), Chirstina Daignault, MSW,
Mary Ann Norris, Lara Setti, MD and Gwendolyn Hampton-VanSant